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Strong opinions plus high-tech equipment equals sheer panic.

SHEER PANIC.

That's what you get when you put some of the nation's most opinionated people in a room with some of the world's most advanced computer technology.

That was just one of the exciting things that happened when NCEW joined forces with the Florida Conference of Editorial Writers for the 1994 Miami Joint Conference held in March.

An introduction to electronic newspapers, libel and other legal problems in the electronic world, the widespread use of on-line services, and the use of Audiotext were discussed, while metaphors like "user-hostility levels" and "road kill" were light-heartedly used to describe the initial fears associated with the electronic world.

During the four-day event, the 40 or so wordsmiths not only had a head-on collision with destiny on the so-called information highway, but also became intimately acquainted with both sides of the Everglades debate, and learned about the positive, less-publicized aspects of Miami and the challenge to cover adequately the city's multicultural Hispanic community.

And while the use of technology dominated the conference, other highlights included an introduction by NCEW president Joe Geshwiler of The Atlanta Constitution and an address by Florida Board of Regents' chancellor Charles Reed on the state of higher education.

We also were introduced to the unsavory taste of Florida's attorney general Bob Butterworth's first annual spot survey of "wave-of-the-hand editorial rejections of criminal-justice proposals." Butterworth, in his speech, basically lambasted opinion writers for using such terms as "quick fix," "simplistic," and "no brainer" to describe his criminal-justice proposals during the 1994 legislative session.

So much for good sportsmanship.

On a more jovial note, in order to get a better feel for what's wrong with the Everglades, a few more than a dozen writers/editors went slogging . . . not slumming, but slogging . . . with park rangers and Miami Herald associate editor Martha Musgrove.

Armed with cameras ant note pads, two groups of journalists trekked through a portion of the Everglades National Park. Being the dry season, much of the park was slightly damp, but at times we were immersed in two to three feet of a quicksand-type substance (residue from the receding water) and twice waist and chest deep in a few gate holes.

Musgrove, who found herself immersed in the water more than a couple of times commented a week after the trip, "I still have we money."

And in the end, it was the consensus of all of the participants that while everyone had a good time, more significantly "a real dialogue" had begun about the future of the nation's opinion pages, one that deserves vigilance, particularly in respect to technology.

Everyone also agreed that Elissa Papirno of The Hartford Courant, chair of NCEW's Op-Ed Committee and Robert Sanchez, a member of The Miami Herald editorial board, did a wonderful job in setting up the seminars and helping Musgrove and others make the conference a true success.

Lisa Parker is assistant editorial page editor of The Gainesville Sun.
COPYRIGHT 1994 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:1994 Miami Joint Conference between National Conference of Editorial Writers and Florida Conference of Editorial Writers
Author:Parker, Lisa
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Jun 22, 1994
Words:488
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